The List of Loria

September 2015

It’s amazing how motivated I am to call the dermatologist or match up stray sock pairings whenever it’s time to sit down and think about God, talk to him, and finally surrender to Him. This morning I tried taking a walk to clear my head and focus my prayers in the same general direction, but then I remembered some gifts I had to buy, and thought maybe I should get on Amazon when I got home. What words would I type into the Amazon search engine? Would I get free shipping?

The church fathers would be proud.

Keeping focus is just plain hard. Lately, I’ve started writing out old-fashioned to-do lists in a real memo notebook I carry around in my deflated-hot-air-balloon-size purse. I draw little boxes and then check off those little boxes. Have you ever felt that kind of satisfaction? If not, I’m not sure we can be friends. Most things make it on to my list — kid things, work things, house things, car things. All things but God things, because it feels odd, grand, and indefinite to put “surrender everything in my life today to God” next to a little hand-drawn box on my list right there with “buy ice” and “deal with the leftovers,” so I don’t.

How is this accomplished, anyway? How do I know when to finally make that check mark? Even putting “Bible study” or “verse memorization” or “prayer journaling” on my list feels like depositing Almighty God into the nice little sanitary place I had retrofitted for him. So I don’t. And he ends up not having a place at all.

Legend has it that Saint Patrick wrote his iconic “Loria” or “Breastplate” back in the 5th century while being pursued by Irish King Leoghaire. The king was trying to prevent Patrick from “sowing the faith” in his land, which was obviously unsuccessful if the invention of green beer means anything at all.

Part of Patrick’s poem reads like an Ultimate Check-off List:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.

It goes on, but you get the idea. I like the idea of a breastplate in the heat of battle, protecting vital organs and infusing its wearer with courage. Especially the idea that Christ himself could be a breastplate — encircling, enveloping, ensconcing. Patrick prayed to be fitted with Christ as he approached his life’s work, which is a far cry from how I accommodate only brief flashes and glimpses of Christ whenever I’m not busy with my busy little busyness.

Or maybe Patrick’s prayer belies a similar struggle he had with focus. Maybe St. Pat, between driving out the snakes and preaching to the pagans, also had pets to groom and mail to open. Perhaps he speaks for himself and for all of us who struggle to bolster ourselves for the day and discern the real work of life from the incidental. Or maybe that’s just the thought that comforts me most.

At any rate, his is a helpful prayer. I hope it bolsters you, too, for whatever you’re checking off today.

– Julie

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